Parfums MDCI La Belle Helene : Fragrance Review



Star rating: 5 stars–outstanding/potential classic, 4 stars–very good, 3 stars–adequate, 2 stars–disappointing, 1 star–poor.

I love the idea of an abstract gourmand, a fragrance that subtly suggests an illusion of something delicious and tantalizing without making its gustatory references overly obvious. Parfums MDCI La Belle Helene starts from this premise: a hint of mouthwatering dessert woven into an elegant oriental composition. La Belle Helene is a perfume inspired by a classical dessert, Poires Belle-Hélène, which was in turn inspired by Offenbach’s operetta La belle Hélène. Just as the great chef Auguste Escoffier interpreted Offenbach’s lighthearted parody in his own manner, perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour pays his personal homage to Escoffier’s sublime combination of poached pears paired with vanilla ice-cream, chocolate sauce and candied violets. La Belle Helene is a story of rosewater poached pear set into an elegant oriental backdrop of amber, incense and vetiver.

The fragrance opens up on the bright, vibrant notes of apricot and violet, through which the myrrh and amber of the basenotes can already be seen. While the gourmand and fruity notes are quite pronounced—rose accented pear, candied apricots and violets and dark vanilla, the fragrance is beautifully balanced. The iris and incense provide a pleasantly dry counterpoint to the opulent richness of La Belle Helene. As the composition develops and the juicy brightness of pear and rose recedes, the drydown of crisp, radiant amber notes, vetiver and cedarwood comes as a pleasant surprise. The classical oriental sweetness remains obvious in La Belle Helene; however, the gourmand references are now abstract and teasing. The end result is seductive and elegant, a boudoir story, rather than that of a pastry shop.

Those familiar with L’Artisan Traversée du Bosphore have already received a preview of La Belle Helene. Wearing these fragrances side by side, I see that they definitely share the same bloodline, even if there are some notable differences. Both are built on a velvety oriental accord, where the soft, sweet violet and dark amber notes form a sensual backdrop against which the floral and fruity accents of the compositions unfold. While Traversée du Bosphore has a stronger candied violet and sweet, warm amber impression, La Belle Helene explores the dark apricot and rose notes. While both are beautiful fragrances, I do not need both in my collection as they have similar characters. I would reach for either when I am in the mood for a warm, sensual perfume that nevertheless has an intimate, comforting aura. In the end, Traversée du Bosphore remains my favorite for a somewhat banal reason—a more affordable price point.

Parfums MDCI La Belle Helene includes notes of pear, aldehydes, tangerine, lime blossom, rose essence, osmanthus, ylang-ylang, iris, hawthorn, Mirabelle plum, myrrh, vetiver, patchouli, cedar Virginia, amber, oak moss, white musk, sandalwood and licorice wood. It is now available at Luckyscent ($250, 60ml.)

Photograph by Gjon Mili, 1943. Some rights reserved.

Sample: my own acquisition



  • Dariia: Thank you for the review. it looks like La Belle Helene isn’t my cup of tea. March 4, 2011 at 4:20am Reply

  • Parfymerad: Thanks for the review – I also got that initial similarity to Traversee, it’s like the same structure in a different key or something. Belle Helene for me was much silkier, brighter but also more subtle, & lacking that raspy sugar/suede feel – it’s really lovely.

    Overall I think I prefer BH, but like you would probably choose Traversee on the basis of cost/quality ratio. March 4, 2011 at 7:04am Reply

  • Olfactoria: I was very curious about La Belle Helene and exited to see your review. I was totally on board until you mentioned a similarity to Traversee du Bosphore – a total scrubber for me. So, I am glad this is one less temptation. (I need to talk myself out of being interested that is why I latch onto your comparison!) March 4, 2011 at 3:35am Reply

  • violetnoir: Ha, ha! You are right about that price point, V!

    I am wearing Traversee du Bosphore today, but have to admit that I have a soft spot for the MDCI line and will continue testing La Belle Helene.

    Hugs! March 4, 2011 at 10:27am Reply

  • Carla: Thank you so much for this! I was imagining something somewhat different from the Grain de Musc review. More chypre and woods. I very much want to try this. Thank you for suggesting a fragrance with a similar character for a better price! My budget simply cannot be stretched to accomodate the MDCI prices. I very much liked TdB when I tried it. March 4, 2011 at 2:04pm Reply

  • dleep: I am wearing this today and I love it. I find it is soft and feminine. I keep sniffing my wrists. March 4, 2011 at 2:16pm Reply

  • Kathryn: What an interesting comparison! I am wearing Traversee du Bosphore today and am enjoying it very much, although it stays a bit closer to my skin than I would like. How does La Belle Helen compare in sillage? March 4, 2011 at 2:29pm Reply

  • sweetlife: Mmmm. I think I will have to test this one, regardless.

    It’s interesting to see a more sophisticated version of the gourmand trend. Gives me hope that something could grow up and out of all that sugar in the mainstream market. March 4, 2011 at 10:40am Reply

  • Victoria: Ok, then I will not try to convince you to give it a go anyway, because I think that I know why you did not care for Traversee du Bosphore. 🙂 March 4, 2011 at 10:53am Reply

  • Victoria: It is a beautiful perfume, but it is not a crowd pleaser (which is a good thing.) March 4, 2011 at 10:54am Reply

  • Victoria: Your observation is spot on. I also find that La Belle Helene is more sheer, softer, without that strong amber note of Traversee du Bosphore. I really do like it. It is just that I already have a bottle of Traversee du Bosphore, and I cannot justify LBH to myself. March 4, 2011 at 10:55am Reply

  • Victoria: I do too! I really love the quality and the attention to detail that I find in Parfums MDCI line as a whole. Ok, I am not a fan of those bottles, but at least, there is a theme and a coherence to this brand. March 4, 2011 at 10:56am Reply

  • Victoria: You should definitely test it, Alyssa! It is a sophisticated and refined gourmand idea, perhaps more oriental-floral than gourmand. I find it original, Traversee du Bosphore link notwithstanding.
    In fact, I am glad to see a perfumer’s signature being so obvious. So many fragrances today lack any indication that they were even made by a human being. March 4, 2011 at 10:58am Reply

  • Olfactoria: Because of the sugar overload? And that is different in Belle Helene? Not interestwd, just asking for the fun of it! 😉 March 4, 2011 at 12:35pm Reply

  • Victoria: I think that it has to do with the amber note. It is to me the same kind of amber that you did not like in Ambre Fetiche. Plus, when it is set with those violet and sweet fruity notes, it becomes even sweeter, almost cloying for some people. Just a guess, of course! 🙂 March 4, 2011 at 12:38pm Reply

  • Marina: Was wearing it to bed last night, trying to form an opinion. I think I like it. Certainly like it more than Traversée, whcih decided that it just wants to be Drole de Rose on my skin. March 4, 2011 at 1:09pm Reply

  • dee: You had me at “same bloodline as Traversée du Bosphore,” and while the price point would prohibit a bottle purchase, I seem to remember hearing that the people over at MDCI have a ridiculously awesome sampling program? I want to try this one, and to get a larger sample of Rose de Siwa—I just need to figure out which other ones I need to try!

    Another great review; thank you Victoria! March 4, 2011 at 1:14pm Reply

  • Dariia: i think, it’s still worth trying)) March 4, 2011 at 6:24pm Reply

  • axum: I had a look at the MDCI website. The samples are 12ml, and you can get a set of 8 for Euros 90, including shipping. That seems reasonable, all things considered. March 4, 2011 at 6:31pm Reply

  • Victoria: Yes, Traversee du Bosphore definitely have more of a sweet violet-raspberry note, which is more subtle in La Belle Helene. I do like both very much. If I did not own Traversee, I would have had an even more difficult time deciding. March 4, 2011 at 2:57pm Reply

  • Victoria: Thank you, D!
    Their sampling program is excellent, and I wish that more brands were as good about it. I like Rose de Siwa as well as Enlèvement au Sérail. Amber Topkapi is a very good masculine. March 4, 2011 at 2:59pm Reply

  • Victoria: La Belle Helene is more iris-woody in the drydown, whereas Traversee du Bosphore is ambery and sweet, but as I wear them, their characters are not that different.
    If you liked Traversee du Bosphore, you are likely to enjoy La Belle Helene too. March 4, 2011 at 3:02pm Reply

  • Victoria: Soft and feminine is how I see it too. An addictive fragrance, well, just like many Bertrand Duchaufour’s compositions. March 4, 2011 at 3:03pm Reply

  • Victoria: La Belle Helene has a better sillage, I would say, a bit more diffusive, although in the drydown, it is lighter. March 4, 2011 at 3:04pm Reply

  • Olfactoria: A really good guess! 🙂 March 4, 2011 at 3:06pm Reply

  • Carla: I think I was forgetting it’s a Duchaufour creation when I first imagined it. I was imagining Kurkdjian kind of creation. Duchaufour is more orientalist. March 5, 2011 at 7:54am Reply

  • Olga: Thanks! I’ve been trying to decide whether I *have to* get a sample now or whether it, and I, can wait. March 5, 2011 at 12:01pm Reply

  • Victoria: Definitely! I cannot agree more! March 5, 2011 at 5:14pm Reply

  • Victoria: You are right, BD does these amber-oriental accords really well. I am wearing Timbuktu right now and enjoying it very much. March 5, 2011 at 5:15pm Reply

  • Victoria: Yes, definitely not bad at all! 12ml is a generous sample. March 5, 2011 at 5:15pm Reply

  • Victoria: Glad I could help to temper the craving for a sample. 🙂 March 5, 2011 at 5:16pm Reply

  • maria: i have tried traversee du bosphpore it was vanilla overload for me a little too sweet and overpowered all other notes. March 6, 2011 at 2:26pm Reply

  • flittersniffer: I do like the sound of this, and Parfymerad has allayed my fears about the raspy/sugar suede feel, which is exactly the problem I have with Traversee. But these notes sound delish on the face of it, and I would like to find a pear scent that is special to me. I associate the note with the likes of Idole and Eau Mega – and I don’t even care for it in that new Jo Malone! March 6, 2011 at 1:24pm Reply

  • Victoria: Then you might have more luck with La Belle Helene. It is less sweet and less vanillic in the drydown. March 6, 2011 at 4:31pm Reply

  • Victoria: This is definitely would be my favorite pear rendition. Not a typical fruit salad pear! March 6, 2011 at 8:42pm Reply

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